Fur flies over pet practice

1st April 2005 at 01:00
Pulling hair is one thing, biting out bloody great chunks of it is quite another. And as we are a school that zero-tolerates bullying, we will put up with it no longer. So before anyone can say the word litigation, Fluffy and Scruffy are banished to separate cages.

Guinea pigs were the learning mentor's idea. I think she wanted to bring a bit of her pastoral upbringing in rural Northumberland to her pastoral role in the badlands of a Sheffield council estate. The idea met with instant approval. It's Excellence and Enjoyment in practice, they crooned. We'll not only put the "wow" factor back into teaching, we'll stick in a few "oohs" and "aahs" to go with it.

And then there's the anti-bullying policy. Imagine how looking after a couple of guinea pigs will help those children with social and emotional needs. Think how it will promote a caring attitude.

Only I was reluctant to jump on the cavy train. Maybe because only I remembered what happened to Tufty. How the special educational needs co-ordinator beat him to death with a hockey stick trying to encourage him out from behind the stock cupboard.

Before I can object, chaos and confusion ... Sorry, access and inclusion, apply the coup de grace. We could use this to raise attendance. What if the class with the least number of absences earned the right to clean them out every week?

Wait a minute. My Year 6 never have time off. But nature's red in tooth and claw. I remember one school where they came back after the weekend to find daddy guinea pig had eaten three-and-a-half baby guinea pigs. Mummy guinea pig was mad with anguish. Totally distraught. I don't know whether guinea pigs are supposed to give much away, emotionally speaking, but this one certainly nibbled her straw more anxiously than usual.

Objection overruled. I shake my head and sigh - it's not easy being a man in today's female-dominated primary staffrooms. Especially when your class gets 99.5 per cent attendance. All that was before the bullying started.

Even so, I swear what happened next was accidental. I mean, what do you expect letting kids clean them out? Sooner or later one will do a runner.

"Anyone seen Scruffy?" asks the learning mentor. "Isn't that him outside the school gates? Chatting to the guy from Claims R Us?"

P.S. Fluffy and Scruffy are currently undergoing a programme of restorative justice.

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